Camp Quarantine : My Cup Runneth Over (pt 5)

Sunday, April 5, 2020 (day 9)

Today is my son’s thirteenth birthday. He greets me at the end of my hallway and stops just before the piece of tape which reads “Do Not Cross”. He rubs his sleepy eyes and smiles as I wish him a happy birthday. I stare at him pensively. It’s odd. I see a boy that I once knew but now he is gone. He’s been replaced by a teenager with wild, unkept hair and thick, large feet. Although he looks, acts, and sounds the same as he did yesterday, there’s a twinge in my heart as I realize that things are now different. He’s now a teenager which means that I must learn to loosen my grip and accept that he’s no longer a child. Instead, I should encourage him to begin his journey towards discovering the person who he wants to be. It makes me proud to see him standing strongly on his own and expressing more independence; however, the idea of having less control over sheltering and protecting him scares me. I suppose everyone, even my sweet baby boy, needs to experience some degree of sorrow, hardship, failure, and disappointment to truly know and appreciate what happiness is.

* * *

A week ago, I assumed Hunter’s birthday would be a bit of a letdown but it surprisingly turned out to be a very unforgettable day (in a good way). On top of having my husband run a few essential errands for our small family celebration, I sent a message to our close friends asking if they could send Hunter some virtual birthday wishes. They went above and beyond to do even better and organized a way of sending Hunter their birthday love while respecting the rules of physical distancing during this pandemic. It was truly heartwarming to watch the beauty of friendship from the confinements of my bedroom window.

As previously mentioned, I’m taking an online course on The Science of Well-Being. Essentially, it focuses on the psychology behind happiness and how it can be strengthened and sustained. There’s an entire section devoted to social connections since it’s such an important component of our well-being. Studies show that simply being around people makes us happier. And not only does it make us happier, but it also makes shared experiences even richer. Interestingly enough, they conducted a study on tasting chocolate – it concluded that those who sampled chocolate with another individual, even a stranger, rated the chocolate as being tastier and even more enjoyable compared to when they ate it alone.

What I’ve learning to appreciate while being in captivity is the importance of creating and strengthening social connections. Some of us tend to place socializing low on our priority list (guilty). We get caught up in chores, responsibilities, work, and so on; the little time and energy that we have left over, we use it to recover. We should remind ourselves to make the time, instead of waiting for it, to foster these connections.

So I challenge you in the future to smile at a stranger, put down your phone and strike up a conversation while waiting in line, listen to what people really have to say, reconnect with someone you lost touch with, and ultimately, learn to become better engaged with your surroundings. Today my friends really pulled through for me during a difficult time to help make my son’s day even brighter. A simple task with intangible meaning. These very friends who started off as mere strangers many years ago.

Stay home, Stay safe, stay positive!

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To be continued…

Camp Quarantine : So Far, So Good (pt. 4)

Thursday, April 2, 2020 (day 6)

Once accepting a situation, it often becomes easier to tolerate.

I initially passed my days like a house pet. I waited to be fed. I waited for attention. I waited for my husband to come home (and would get excited once he did). And I spent long hours sitting at the window, wondering where people were going. Okay, well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I do hope that no one ever has to endure the hunger pangs of waiting for a teenager to wake up and feed you!
A few days into my quarantine, I decided that it was necessary to establish structure and routine in order to mentally survive this confinement. So every morning, I would wake up early, chat with my husband over coffee, make my bed, draw back the curtains, and begin my day.

Part of this routine included participating in an online course on The Science of Well-Being. In one of the sections, we discussed savouring. Savouring is the act of thoroughly enjoying something. Studies concluded that stepping out of your experience to savour and appreciate it will actually contribute to an increase in happiness!

It dawned on me that this is why I enjoy writing so much. Wandering Mandy is kind of a play on words. I wander a lot physically … but not nearly as much as I do mentally! I use writing as a tool to savour my experiences. It encourages me to pay closer attention and analyze how those moments make me feel and how I can capture them into words. How does this sand feel? What do those clouds look like? What is that smell in the air? How does all of this make me feel? I then try to preserve those experiences through my stories, which I can relive at any time.

In the beginning, it was quite emotional for me to be isolated and I spent a lot of time mourning the loss of my freedom and secretly resenting my family for not showering me in more pity. After a few days though, I decided that enough was enough and that it was time to accept this situation. I made a conscious decision to not waste any more of my precious time waiting and lamenting about the things that I cannot do or change.
So how did I take this bad situation and turn it into good? Or, even better, how did I embrace it? I decided to take this opportunity to finish that book I’ve always wanted to read. I decided to dust off my ukulele and finally learn how to play it. I decided to get really good at juggling. I decided to actually use those self-care products that I’ve never had time to enjoy. I decided to return people’s calls and messages and really engage in meaningful conversations with them. I decided to savour this moment of being alone with my thoughts and put that energy and emotion into my writing. Most importantly, I decided to stop putting my life on hold and instead be positive and patient while I wait for this pandemic to end.

“If you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at change”.

Stay positive! Stay home! Stay safe!

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To Be Continued…

Camp Quarantine : Confirmation Day (pt. 2)

Sunday, March 29

I shout out the instructions on how to make the perfect cup of coffee to my husband from our master bedroom. “Take the Caramel Bliss from the bottom shelf in the fridge and put some in the frother!” … “Um… I dunno, maybe 30 ml?” … “Yeah, and then just hit the top button. It should go red…” Part of me thinks that I could get used to this kind of service … but the other part thinks that it would be easier if I could just do it myself.

I received confirmation that the suspected case of COVID-19 that I was in contact with is positive, and that I’ll have to stay in isolation for two weeks from my last point of contact with this individual. That extends my sentence from two to ten days of solitary confinement – April 9th is my set parole date. Exactly four days after my son’s thirteenth birthday. I had already been racking my brain for creative ways to celebrate as an isolated family but now I have to figure how to make his day extra special as a self-isolated mother confined to a bedroom. It’s saddening to realize that I’ll be celebrating my son becoming a teenager from behind a piece of tape that’s placed in the hallway, which reads “DO NOT CROSS”.

* * *

Once the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in New Brunswick, it only took one week before the province was forced to declare a state of emergency. It was like something out of an apocalyptic movie. People were panic buying, shelves were empty, jobs were lost, and our community’s resources quickly dwindled down to only the essentials. Restaurants gradually decreased from 50 percent capacity, to take-out only, to being closed until further notice. Traffic was sparse until it was eventually non-existent. And local businesses closed, leaving nothing but a door littered with COVID-19 signs and a vacant parking lot behind.
There’s an unnerving silence. The kind of silence you would expect in a rural area but not in the middle of a city. As I walked the dog, I recall there being no sound except the cawing of a nearby crow. Cars were at home and houses were occupied but the city lacked any signs of life. This pandemic has caused the pulse of our charismatic city to steadily slow down until it eventually flatlined.
We all must realize that we’re living through a crisis which requires absolute compliance and cooperation. Unforunately, those who choose to dig in their heels and forego their social distancing are contributing to heightened tensions worldwide. Finger pointing on how others are responding to the COVID-19 directives is resulting in a widening of the generational gap.
Globally, we must continue to break down boarders. Help our neighbour. Spread kindness. Speak the universal language of compassion. And work together for a universal cause. In this situation, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts but equal – meaning that our individual actions are just as important, if not more, for overcoming this pandemic together.

Please, continue to stay home and stay safe!

To Be Continued…

Camp Quarantine : Isolation Day (pt. 1)

March 27, 2020

“You’ve been in recent contact with a suspected COVID-19 case so you will be required to self-isolate for two days until the test is confirmed…” I receive this phone call at 9:45pm on Friday night from the public health nurse. In an instant, things became very real, very fast. My husband stares at me as I hang up. Knowing that this day would likely come, I give him a shrug and we begin to execute our contingency plan.

My youngest son’s eyes water in fear as I explain to him that I’ve been in contact with a potential case and have to go into self-isolation for two days. Moments ago, I was surrounded by my family during our ‘forced family fun’ night. We were eating pizza and choking back tears as we watched Schindler’s List. I did as I was told. I’ve been isolating properly. I’ve been washing my hands raw. And now I have to isolate myself from even my family. How quickly things can change. I reassure my youngest that it’s going to be okay and that with my work, this would happen eventually. We just need to take the necessary precautions to keep everyone else safe. I then ask him to begin disinfecting the light switches, door handles, and common surface areas while I tell the other two kids.

My husband is in our bedroom, packing his stuff so that he can relocate to the spare room downstairs. I get a twinge in my heart as I watch him fill a suitcase full of clothes, not knowing if this will be for two days or two weeks. He grabs his alarm clock, two pillows, and all of his toiletries. And just like that, I officially begin quarantine. I look around my bedroom. It doesn’t look different but it certainly feels much different; I suddenly feel a bit sad, scared that my family may be at risk, and lonely.

***

Two weeks ago, we began social distancing as the COVID-19 virus took the world by surprise.

The kids were initially excited to be given two weeks off school; however, as the situation continued to grow, so did their social distancing … and boredom. Trying to maintain normalcy, I began slipping ‘to do’ lists under my son’s door every morning, titled “Camp Quarantine”. It gives him a list of responsibilities ranging from English and math assignments to basic household chores. Are these desperate attempts to stimulate his mind a complete waste of time? Who knows. But I do them anyway. The assignment which I am most excited about is his journal. He began recording his day to day experiences of living through this pandemic. I emphasized that this is a historical event in which none of us have ever experienced before. We don’t know how long it will last nor how it will end but we do know, for sure, that this will reshape the way we live and the world around us.

My husband and I both work in the healthcare field; therefore, we’re considered essential workers. We both face different stresses during this time. As a surgeon, my husband’s access to the hospital is limited so he’s often quite distracted by trying to figure out what to do with his more urgent cases. How do you tell a person they have cancer and in the same breath tell them that they have to wait for treatment? When I find this pandemic frustrating or overwhelming, I think of these people …

I work in a primary care clinic, approximately thirty minutes from home. Our services have also been reduced to urgent and essential; however, I still continue to carry out patient visits over the telephone. I work with an elderly and vulnerable population, so I try to ensure that they are staying home and have the support they need during this difficult time. I sit down at my desk every morning, pull up my list of patients on my computer, and begin calling: “Hi, this Amanda, your nurse practitioner. During the pandemic, I will try my best to care for you over the phone in order to keep you home and keep you safe…”

Everywhere I turn, it’s about the pandemic. I have coffee with my husband in the morning and we discuss the latest development. I drive to work and tune into CBC and it’s about the pandemic. I call patients and they require reassurance about the pandemic. I check my Facebook and it’s about how people are coping with the pandemic. I call my mother on my way home and we talk about how this pandemic is affecting our daily routine. I then go home and discuss the latest cases in New Brunswick with my husband.

I live in the Northeastern region of New Brunswick. Every day the numbers continue to grow and there are newer cases closer and closer to home. I can feel the squeeze of the coronavirus slowly surrounding us, like a snake with its prey. It squeezes tighter and tighter until it will eventually penetrate our communities, our neighbourhoods, and our homes…

Please, stay home and stay safe!

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To Be Continued…